Officials monitor as virus spreads

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No cases in Ouray County yet, but Ouray School nixes trip to France

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Ouray County health officials continue to work with school districts, local governments and other leaders to monitor for COVID-19, a strain of coronavirus that 1.7 people had tested positive for in Colorado as of Wednesday afternoon.

In less than a week, the state went from having zero confirmed cases to reporting instances in Jefferson, Eagle, Pitkin, Gunnison, Arapahoe, Summit, Douglas, Larimer, Denver and El Paso counties. Many of the cases involved people who had recently traveled within the U.S. or internationally.

Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, after the latest case was reported in Gunnison County, citing a need to control “community spread” of the virus. He said during a press conference one of the things he hopes to do is expand drive-through testing across the state, including places in the mountains where cases have been identified.

At this time, there are no testing locations in Ouray County and Health Department Director Tanner Kingery is advising anyone with symptoms who thinks they may have the virus to contact their primary care doctor.

The criteria for testing is very specific. The full criteria for testing was expanded on Tuesday night to include anyone who has symptoms and is at risk of severe illness, including older adults who are least 65, and is available on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website at www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe.

The closest testing sites are at Telluride Medical Center and Uncompahgre Medical Center in Norwood, but those tests will not be given to anyone who doesn’t meet the criteria for this strain of the virus. Kingery advised anyone with questions to call their medical doctor for a consultation and avoid showing up at hospitals, as they risk exposing others if they have the virus.

“We don’t want people walking into waiting rooms and having contact with other people,” Kingery said. “Don’t just show up.”

Health officials have focused on limiting exposure, encouraging everyone to wash hands frequently and effectively for at least 20 seconds with soap, and to avoid sneezing or coughing on others.

One of the best things people can do is stay home if they don’t feel well and keep their children home if they don’t feel well, health officials said.

Kingery met with representatives from the county’s emergency management office, school districts, Ouray, Ridgway and others at a multi-agency coordination group meeting on Thursday and said the group will continue to meet every other week to touch base, monitor the situation and plan for a coordinated response.

As of Wednesday there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ouray County, but there has been plenty of discussion about what will happen when it arrives and how to limit exposure. Some other communities in Colorado have canceled social events where large groups of people were anticipated to congregate, in the hopes of slowing the spread of the virus.

Ouray School officials on Tuesday canceled an upcoming student trip to France. School officials in Normandy — which has a student exchange program with Ouray — notified the school here they were canceling events there and that Ouray students couldn’t come, according to Ouray School administrative assistant Kimberly Sills.

Some districts have canceled school-sponsored trips outside the state, as Mesa County Valley School District 51 in Grand Junction decided to do this week.

A trip to Africa is scheduled for some Ridgway Secondary School students later this year, but at this time Superintendent Susan Lacy said the district is monitoring the situation.